Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cream Cheese Danish vs. Ring Donuts

I’ve got this bread baking thing going lately and I don’t quite know why, but as long as it keeps working out it’s fun. Years ago after coming off of my first couple of successes in the kitchen feeling both brave and accomplished, I took a big step and decided to make French bread. I was immediately humbled when my loaf came out of the oven looking beautiful but heavy as a rock. I still don’t know what I did wrong but I was so disheartened that I wrote off bread making for years as something that I wasn’t good at and left the kneading and rising to Sara Lee and our local bakery.

Years later I found myself living in the UK craving any sort of soft, chewy, bakery item. Oh sure, the UK does have their own macabre version of cake and pastry but, and I apologize to my English friends right now, they are mostly dry and filled with some sort of sultana or currant, yuck (exceptions to this statement being the best dessert in the world, Sticky Toffee Pudding and the wonderful Victoria Sponge). I remember seeing an interview with Bruce Willis on BBC and he said although he loved their country he had to ask the English people what’s up with their donuts? Well Bruce, great hot little mini donuts can be found fried fresh as novelties at antique fairs and carnivals, but mostly their ring donuts used to really suck. I am so please to report that Krispy Kreme has now invaded the UK so things are looking up (thanks Jayne).

After a couple of years of this bakery deprivation, I decided to give yeast another try. I dug through my files and came up with a recipe from my favorite Southern Living Cookbook that looked like just what I had been missing. I carefully followed the directions and to my amazement I prepared the most delicious Danish pastry that I had ever eaten bar none. The bread is soft and tender with a delicate ribbon of cream cheese filling running through the center and finished with a thin sweet glaze spread on top. Soon this recipe had been passed around the whole of the East Midlands. Even my English friends were smitten with it. I left there a few years later feeling that I had left my mark on their taste buds; kind of like the Johnny Appleseed of yeast breads. I’m sure by now someone has bound to have stuffed them with dried currants, but I’ve done all I can do.

Nowadays I occasionally dust this recipe off and prepare it when I want to impress. Yesterday I took it to my third Front Range Foodies blogger meet up and I was as pleased as ever with the results. I don’t know if this recipe is foolproof or if my cooking skills have improved over the years but I’m willing to believe it’s just a great recipe that anyone can make.


Cream Cheese Danish Loaves

A couple of things about this recipe. Don't be put off by the fact that it needs to rise in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. With a little planning ahead you can have these delicious loaves fresh and hot and ready for a spectacular breakfast or brunch. This also makes enough for a small army. I often cut the recipe in half or prepare it to the point of the second rising and wrap the unneeded portions and freeze them for later. When you are ready to cook the frozen loaves, remove them from the freezer, unwrap and place them on a greased baking sheet, lightly covered in a warm place until they are thawed and doubled in size, approximately 2 hours or so before baking as directed. Finally, I discovered that 1 cup of granulated sugar in the blender (not food processor) for about 4 minutes or so makes great icing sugar in a pinch.

1 cup (250ml) sour cream
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (113g) butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 - .75 (21g) packages rapid rise or instant yeast
1/2 cup (125ml) warm water
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups (440g) all-purpose flour
Filling (recipe follows)
Glaze (recipe follows)

Combine sour cream, sugar, butter and salt in a saucepan; heat until butter melts. Cool to 105 – 115 degrees. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream mixture and eggs. Gradually stir in flour (dough with be sticky). Cover dough tightly and store in the refrigerator at least 8 hours.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Turn each portion out onto a heavily floured surface, and knead 5 or 6 times. Roll each portion into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 of the filling over each rectangle, leaving a 1/2" margin around the edges. Carefully roll up dough jellyroll fashion, starting at long side; dampen outside seams and pinch to seal. Carefully place loaves, seam side down on greased baking sheets.

Make 6 equally spaced X shaped cuts across top of each loaf. Cover and let rise in a warm draft free place for about 1 hour or until they have doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Spread loaves with glaze while warm.
Yield: 4 – 12 inch loaves.

Filling

2 – 8 ounce (228g) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with an electric mixer until well blended and fluffy.

Glaze

2 cups (250g) sifted icing (powdered) sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients, stirring well to combine.
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